Last week LargeUp gave us a listen to Vybz Kartel‘s Kingston Story (the deluxe edition dropped this week on Vice Records, cop it here) which turned out to be that rarest of things–a dancehall reggae album that stands up as a coherent long-player and complete artistic statement. Dancehall LPs, as a rule, tend be collections of hot 45s and crossover remixes. But over the years a select few stood out–and stood the test of time–as the best of the best. LargeUp honors those landmark LPs in their Toppa Top 10 for this week. For a sample check my own entry on Super Cat’s 1992 classic Don Dada below–and hit the link at bottom to read the full Top 10 and answer the musical question “Bling, bling! Who’s that with Super Cat?”
Though in some ways less consistent than some of Super Cat’s Jamaican LPs, his major label adventure Don Dada ranks among the classics of the genre. Not only did this set of songs establish Cat’s musical persona to the world, in many ways it did so for dancehall as well. The Puffy Combs and Salaam Remi-produced experimentswith hip-hop that powered the album’s radio and video presence are landmarks on a number of scores (first appearance of the Notorious B.I.G., first usage of the term ‘bling, bling’, etc.) but also established a whole new sub-genre of badman talk over raw drum breaks. On the other end of the spectrum, “Nuff Man A Dead,” “Coke Don” and “Oh It’s You” are as menacingly melodic as any of Cat’s early reggae 45s. Forming a bridge between the two extremes are songs crafted with Heavy D’s input (“Big & Ready”; “Dem No Worry We”)–in some ways the most satisfying on the album. What truly unites the diverse riddims on Don Dada, however, is Cat’s unstoppable flow. An unlikely formula for crossover success—a lexicon of street cred (“Kingston, mi dere when Massop get shot”) impenetrable to non-Jamaicans, a relentless, never-take-a-breath singsong that hardly left room for conventional hooks—proved to be the most enduring blueprint for dancehall hitmaking. Once Super Cat’s breathless chat got up to tempo, every bar became a hook.